Always Regretting Everything?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Do you feel like you are always regretting things? What you said or did? Always running through all the mistakes you made and how you could have done things better?

Some regret is normal

We all make mistakes or do silly things now and then in life. Regret allows us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and set new, positive intentions for how we will deal with things in the future.

And life regrets show that we want to grow and progress. An analysis of eleven research studies on regret found that our biggest regrets come from the times in life where we had the biggest opportunities, and felt a chance for change and renewal.

Why always regretting things is bad for your mental health

But what if we are always regretting things, even on a daily basis? And can't stop seeing what has gone 'wrong'? Regret stops being helpful for our mental and emotional wellbeing. It can mean that we:

  • are stuck in the past and miss opportunities in the present
  • constantly feel bad about ourselves
  • are blind to what goes right and what is working
  • are in a critical, negative state that might then affect our relationships
  • might suffer from anxiety
  • or be so worried about messing up that we are held back in our career.

But I really do mess up all the time

While we all occasionally make mistakes, forget things, or underperform, it’s never at a level that it deserves endless or daily regret.

And it’s also unlikely that the people you are sure are upset with you care as much as you think. Often, if we suffer constant feelings of regret, it’s over a drama that only we noticed.

So it’s more than likely that the real reason for your constant regret is that your mind is working against you.

Why you are always regretting things

But how can your own thinking be functioning in unhelpful ways? Let’s look at the different ways this works.

1. You have distorted thinking.

Sometimes we think our thoughts are real but actually, they aren’t. We have an issue with what is called ‘cognitive distortions’. Our brain distorts reality.

Common types of cognitive distortions that can lead to endless guilt and regret include doom and gloom thinking (I forgot to print something at work and now I’m going to get fired) black and white thinking (I forgot our anniversary so now he won’t love me he will hate me) and assumptions (I didn’t thank her for her gift so now she’ll find me a terrible person).

2. You suffer from rumination.

Rumination means that our mind is addicted to endless and constant negative thinking. We take one issue and we think about it from every angle, and it’s we focus on what went wrong not what also went right.

3. You are a perfectionist.

You have the perspective that anything that isn’t perfect is no good. So your life is a constant game of living up to pretty unreachable standards, then feeling terrible or useless if you don’t meet the mark.

4. You are too self-critical.

You are always regretting everything because a voice in your head is constantly telling you are no good and everything is your fault, or that nobody likes or respects you.

5. You are addicted to drama.

In some cases our tendency to regret everything is because it give us something to talk about. And we are addicted to drama as it gives us a sense we are important.

Why would I have this problem?

It can be partly our personality that sees us regret things more than others. Some of us seem to be born with brains that simply think more, worry more, or analyse more.

But a large part of a tendency to regret everything and always blame yourself comes from the environments and people that formed your childhood.

We can learn to always turn things to the negative and make it all about us from parents who do so.

Or, we can learn to blame ourselves and feel faulty and like we aren’t measuring up if we had a critical parent or caregiver who now lives in our head as our own critical inner voice.

If we lived through childhood neglect and trauma, in order to make sense of what was beyond logic? Our child brain could have simply decided that somehow things were our fault. It was our fault one of our parents left, or we were abused or bullied. We can then become addicted to drama as we don't feel we are worthy or interesting unless we have a story to tell.

How can I stop always regretting everything?

Retraining your thinking can be a great first step, and there is actually a form of therapy that focuses on just that. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to recognise your negative thoughts then question them, turning them into more useful, balanced thoughts. This can in turn help you make better decisions, so you take less negative action and there is less to even try to regret.

You might also want to learn about self-compassion. The more we can try to treat ourselves as a friend, the less we can hold ourselves up to standards we would never impose on anyone else.

Can therapy help me stop with the regrets?

And all types of therapy work at helping you get to know yourself more so you can recognise your inner resources and what is right about you, raising your self-esteem. Meaning endless regret lowers.

And therapy is also excellent at helping you recognise what it really is you value, and what you really want to do with your life. Given that a recent study found the one thing most people regret the most is not reaching their potential, and becoming the person they meant to be? Then therapy will definitely help.

Time to stop living life in a fog of regret and starting feeling good again? Use our easy booking tool to find your perfect talk therapist now.

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